Tour de France 2023
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has blasted to victory in stage 3 of the 2023 Tour de France in a tumultuous bunch sprint ahead of Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny).
Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) remains in the overall lead after a straightforward day for the maillot jaune.
Philipsen received a fine lead-out from teammate Mathieu van der Poel, enabling him to claim the first bunch sprint of the 2023 Tour and the third Tour of his career by half a wheel.
The Belgian had a nervous few minutes after the stage as the commissaries reviewed video footage of the final sprint following allegations that Philipsen moved from his line too much in the sprint, cutting off Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
But in what had been a fraught, technical finish, finally, the commissaires ruled that Philipsen was not at fault.
“There was a bit of doubt,” Philipsen said when he was definitively declared the winner before joking, “They [the commissaires] made it quite exciting in the end.
“It was tense, but it’s the Tour de France, there are no presents for nobody. I think everybody goes all in, and I can be really happy with our team today.”
“I had a great lead-out with Jonas [Rickaert], he did a great first part, and then Mathieu did a fantastic job. If Mathieu has the space to go, then for sure, he has the speed. You just know that no other lead-out will pass him.
“It was a tricky finale with the S-bend in the end, so I tried to take the shortest route to the finish. I’m really happy to get first over the line.”
Stage 4 from Dax to Nogaro is 184 kilometres long, even flatter and, as such, also likely to end in another bunch sprint – and another great opportunity for Philipsen.
Starting deep in the northwest side of the Basque Country with a series of four minor climbs, Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) used the relative calm in the peloton to rack up some more points for his mountains competition lead. After breaking away with Laurent Pichon (Arkéa-Samsic) before the Côte de Trabakua (km 13.8), Powless racked up maximum points on each ascent as the duo pushed out their initial advantage to nearly four minutes.
Shortly before the mid-stage intermediate sprints banner, stage 2 winner Victor Lafay (Cofidis) then made a counter-attack to take third place and some more points for his green jersey lead. The Frenchman was then swept up by the peloton, but Powless continued his mountain classification points total on each minor small ascent prior to sitting up and letting Pichon head on alone in the final, classified climb-free, 80 kilometres of the stage.
As the race headed out of the Basque hills and towards the French border, the sprinters’ teams began to move towards the front, and while Pichon made it into France ahead, his gap was slowly crumbling. Shortly after the coastal town of St. Jean-de-Luz, the Arkéa-Samsic rider’s 160-kilometre break came to an end, although news broke later that he had at least won the Most Combative Rider’s award for his daylong effort.
Lotto-Dstny, Bora-Hansgrohe, Lidl-Trek and Jumbo-Visma kept the speed high, hitting average speeds well above 55 km/h in places on the broad, well-surfaced highways of southwest France. Visibly keen to prevent any last-minute breakaways, despite the notably technical segments and some sharp little uphills, the sprinters’ teams maintained their control over the front end of the peloton.
Suddenly in the last 10 kilometres, Soudal-QuickStep, having worked hard to protect Fabio Jakobsen on the left-hand side of the bunch, made their presence known at the head of the bunch. Then on an interminable series of roundabouts and bends as the race worked its way through the centre of Bayonne, a line of riders from Tour newcomers Uno-X notably matched the Belgian team’s effort on the far side of the road. Fortunately, and unusually for the first Tour sprint stage, despite the tricky finale, there were no crashes reported.
A pronounced U-turn with two kilometres to go, followed by a chicane late on, made for a major reshuffling at the front of the bunch and saw Soudal-QuickStep’s grip on affairs weaken notably. It was hardly coincidental that this was exactly when Alpecin-Deceuninck’s three-man train – Rickaert, Van der Poel and Philipsen – surged forwards.
Van Aert briefly matched Philipsen when Van der Poel finally swung off, but in a chaotic dash for the finish, the Jumbo-Visma man’s late acceleration was curtailed in the last metres as the road swung slightly right.
Instead, Philipsen could claim the 30th win of his career just ahead of Bauhaus and Ewan, and after his victory last summer on the Champs Élysées, start this year’s Tour bunch sprints in the exact same way that he ended them last year – with his arms aloft.
Tomorrow’s stage 4 presents the last stage start in the Basque Country. The riders clip into their pedals in spa town Dax to travel to Nogaro. The race is 181.8 kilometres long and finishes on Circuit Paul Armagnac, also known as Circuit de Nogaro.
In fact, the last 3 kilometres take place on the motorsport race track before the fast men are likely to have it their way.
The route of Le Tour’s 4th is not very remarkable. Gently undulating roads lead the riders away from the Atlantic Coast. The route goes as far east as Vic-Fezensac before returning westwards with almost 40 kilometres to go. Shortly after moving through Vic-Fezensac the Côte de Dému throws in the only KOM-worthy gradients of the day. That is, 2 kilometres at 3.5%.
The Circuit Paul Armagnac has seen its fair share of fast finishes. In the distant past the likes of Alain Prost and Jean Alesi were victorious on the track, when it was still used for major sports car events, but one of the biggest name in the history of cycling also won here. Eddy Merckx took the spoils in the 1974 edition of the Critérium des As, while Tom Scully won a stage in the 2017 Route du Sud on the racing track.
Stage 3 result:
1. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin–Deceuninck) 4hr 43min 15sec
2. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) all same time
3. Caleb Ewan (Lotto–Dstny)
4. Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quick Step)
5. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)